Relaxation Techniques For Labor – Body Awareness/Tension Recognition

Several steps are involved in learning to achieve total relaxation. Once you have mastered the Body Awareness/Tension Recognition Guide, you can move on to the more advanced relaxation guides. Practice with your partner, and make an audiotape that you can use if your partner is unavailable.

Body Awareness/Tension Recognition

The first step in learning relaxation involves developing a sense of body awareness and learning to recognize muscle tension. The goal of this first exercise is to make you aware of what your different body parts feel like when they are tense and when they are relaxed. You should practice this exercise with your labor partner, who can give you the verbal cues.

The verbal cues for the Body Awareness/Tension Recognition exercise, as well as the woman’s actions and the labor partner’s reactions, are presented in Table 5.1 below. When your partner gives you a verbal cue, breathe in slowly through your nose while tensing the specified body part. Feel the tightening of the muscles used to perform the action. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth and relax the body part. Feel the release as you relax the muscles. Have your partner observe the physical appearance of the tensed muscles, then check the body part both visually and physically for the degree of relaxation. For ease of checking, practice this exercise in the semireclining position.

Go through the Body Awareness/Tension Recognition Guide in order. When you have finished tensing and relaxing the final body part, take a few moments to go back over your body. If there are areas that are still tense, repeat the tensing and releasing of that muscle group. Before getting up, take several deep breaths, then slowly rise to an upright position.

Table 5.1. Body Awareness/Tension Recognition Guide

Verbal Cue Woman’s action Partner’s Reaction
Pull up your toes. Inhale slowly through nose and tense toes. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax toes. Visually check tensed toes, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Turn out your ankles Inhale slowly through nose and tense ankles outward. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax ankles inward. Visually check tensed ankles, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Bend your knees Inhale slowly though nose and flex knees with feet on floor. Exhale slowly through mouth and straighten legs, letting knees flop outward. Visually check tensed knees, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Squeeze your thighs together Inhale slowly through nose and press thighs inward. Exhale slowly through mouth and let things relax outward. Visually check tensed thighs, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Press your thighs toward the floor Inhale slowly through nose and press thighs downward. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax thighs. Visually check tensed thighs, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Tighten your buttocks. Inhale slowly through nose and tense buttocks. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax buttocks. Visually check tensed buttocks, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Arch your back Inhale slowly through nose and tense upper and lower back. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax upper and lower back. Visually check tensed back, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Pull in your abdomen Inhale slowly through nose and tense abdomen. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax abdomen. Visually check tensed abdomen, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Expand your chest Inhale slowly through nose and and fill lungs with air, tensing chest. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax chest. Visually check tensed chest, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Press your shoulder blades back Inhale slowly through nose and tense shoulders. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax shoulders. Visually check tensed shoulders, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Shrug shoulders Inhale slowly through nose and shrug shoulders. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax shoulders. Visually check tensed shoulders, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Tense your hands by making fists. Inhale slowly through nose and make tight fists. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax hands. Visually check tensed hands, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Extend your head backwards. Inhale slowly through nose and tense neck muscles. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax neck muscles. Visually check tensed neck muscles, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Grimace. Inhale slowly through nose and tense lips. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax lips. Visually check tensed lips, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Frown. Inhale slowly through nose and tense mouth area. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax mouth area. Visually check tensed mouth area, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Clench your teeth. Inhale slowly through nose and tense jaw. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax jaw. Visually check tensed jaw, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Wrinkle your nose. Inhale slowly through nose and tense area above nose. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax area above nose. Visually check tensed nose area, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Close your eyes tightly Inhale slowly through nose and close eyes tightly. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax eyes. Visually check tensed eyes, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Lift your eyebrows. Inhale slowly through nose and raise eyebrows as high as possible. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax eyebrows. Visually check tensed eyebrows, then visually and physically check for relaxation.

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